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Magnum Opus - 98%

Twitch S S, November 20th, 2011

For a quick summary if you can’t be bothered to read my long review scroll down:

After what could be considered a “safe” comeback to lead vocals of Rob Halford with Angel of Retribution Judas Priest decided they need to do something more creative with their 16th LP release Nostradamus and by creative I mean they have ventured into Symphonic metal. This time round Judas Priest attempt to do a concept album based upon the life and visions of the famous French seer and I have to say I think it is a great success.

The album’s production is fantastic, everything is clear and precise. Every lyric is audible and every instrument is perfectly placed. Individual performances are as good as any this band has ever recorded. Rob may not be the youngest boy on the block but he still has a hell of a voice on him and one that is still better than most on the scene. He shows a great range from the almost operatic intro to the title track, to the soft and gentle ballad Lost Love and the straight ahead metal approach of Prophecy. Glenn Tipton and K.K Downing are as good here as anytime in their career, the riffs are powerful and varied and some of the bands greatest ever solos are present on what could yet be Priests last ever album. Scott Travis and Ian Hill are both consistent and powerful on drums and Bass and the former has some great fills over the course of the album. A special mention has to be given to Don Airey who provides the keyboards here too, very well done. Overall production wise Judas Priest has created an album that focuses as much on the music as it does on Rob’s powerful voice, never sacrificing one for the other and always finding the balance between the two.

The atmosphere throughout the album changes constantly and never are you in one frame of mind for too long, this is helped a lot in my opinion by the various interludes spread throughout the album which help break the pace down to something which helps balance everything.

Dawn of Creation, Solitude, Awakening, The Four Horsemen, Sands of Time, Peace, Shadows in the Flame, Hope, Calm Before the Storm.

These tracks are not full songs by themselves but lead seamlessly into the next track and may as well be as a whole the next song because they work perfectly and are in no way out of place. They are all soft pieces and all lead into something heavier but it works. The first two tracks listed are the respective intro’s to each disc as Nostradamus is split over two disc and both are amazing ambient songs that with no more than a little piano and a few strings build the atmosphere to a point where you know things are about to explode.

There are various moments throughout the album where you hear some great orchestration, the sort of thing you would hear in a movie soundtrack. This can be shown to very clear effect in the song War which has a beautiful build up half way through the song and is something not to dissimilar to what you would expect from Hans Zimmer. The song Death has an almost Epic Doom metal sound to it and contains some great Doom styled riffs and one of the albums great guitar solos. The albums obligatory ballads are Lost Love and New Beginnings both of which are very nice, the former especially has a beautiful guitar solo, even if it is a bit short. The song Plague and Pestilence is one of the best songs here and contains some lyrics in Latin but more importantly one of Priests best solos ever. The atmosphere throughout the song is hopeful despite the opposite being described lyrically. The weakest song here is Visions and it also happens to be the most commercial sounding on the LP. Nostradamus has an epic blood pumping orchestral intro which leads into possibly the best vocals of the album which are almost operatic up until what is the best scream Rob does the entire album. The final track The Future of Mankind another amazing track containing everything you would expect from a great Priest song, powerful vocals and an amazing dual guitar solo from Downing and Tipton. Tracks like Exiled and Alone are also very strong the former expressing a lot of emotion lyrically and the former sounding almost rebellious.

In my opinion this is Judas Priest greatest ever album, better than Painkiller or British Steel purely because of the variation they show here. They have shown they are not afraid to try something new and not allowing themselves to be the stereotype band that many people think Judas Priest of. Everything here is perfect, the vocals, guitar riffs, the solos, the atmosphere, the orchestration, the lyrics are very good, the production… hell even the booklet is beautiful to look at. This is in my view Judas Priests best album, their magnum opus. Does this mean all Priest fans will like it? No…. but there are many people out there who will appreciate this album for what it is and I hope to one day see this album played in it's entirety

A quick summary for those that can’t be bothered to read a wall of text

- Lyrics and vocals are brilliant
- Some of the greatest guitar solos Priest have ever done
- Production is perfect
- Interludes between songs create a great atmosphere and keep the pace of the album varied

- As good as the solos are I wish there were more of them
- Priest used some symphonic elements during this album; I would have liked to see them be a bit more forward with it. I hope next time they use a real full orchestra, choir and really give it the beans
- Only 102 minutes of music, I want more god dammit

My choice tracks
- Plague and Pestilence (Amazing solo)
- Nostradamus
- War
- The Future of Mankind (Amazing solo)

God I love this album, I hope Priest continue this path and create a even more bombastic and grandiose symphoic album next time, rather than revert back to thier more traditional style... as good as it was I want something new and fresh.